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Amnesty: 'Horrific Abuse' Driving Migrants Across Mediterranean

  • Henry Ridgwell

This week, Europe will debate setting up a quota system for allocating among EU member states the hundreds of thousands of refugees arriving on the continent. The discussion comes as Amnesty International warns that brutal treatment of migrants in Libya – including beating, torture and rape – is driving many to escape across the Mediterranean.

As Europe’s politicians continue to debate immigration, the boats keep on coming. At Reggio Calabria in southern Italy, more than 400 migrants were brought ashore by German naval vessels.

Germany is also bearing the greatest burden of refugees. Over 400,000 asylum seekers are expected to arrive in the country this year – double last year’s total.

It prompted German Chancellor Angela Merkel to hold an emergency summit Friday, in which she called for European partners to share responsibility.

“There will be no alternative to European solidarity to get to a solution,” she said.

Hundreds of refugees pass through Italy’s Milan station en route to Germany every week. Volunteer aid worker Susy Iovieno offers them food, clothing and advice. She said Europe must make reforms.

She said this is needed "to create a humanitarian corridor, give the possibility to these people to apply for an entry visa legally, at the different embassies in the neighboring countries like Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. That would help avoid the illegal transport and risky trips to Europe," she said.

Europe will debate such proposals Wednesday, including a quota system for accepting asylum seekers across member states. Hungary, which is on the route for migrants coming from the Balkans, is one of several nations to have already rejected quotas.

“We don't want to see immigrants in Hungary,” said Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. “If other EU members ask our opinion I say to them that I think you should not want to either.”

Many European states blame the chaos in Libya for the influx of boats – and have called for warships along the Libyan coast. But that idea is rejected by the interim prime minister of the government set up by militias controlling Tripoli, one of two rival administrations for the country.

Khalifa Al Ghweil said "what we want from the European Union is to deal directly with the National Salvation Government in Tripoli and cooperate with it and provide it with the capabilities to curb the migration."

Human rights group Amnesty International says the migrants are subjected to horrendous conditions in Libya – which is driving many to escape across the Mediterranean.

“They face widespread labor exploitation when they’re forced to work without any pay. They face indefinite detention for migration purposes. Inside those detention centers they do face widespread torture and other ill treatment including beatings with sticks, whips, cables,” said Magdalena Mughrabi-Talhami, who works for the organization.

Meanwhile, Italian divers have located the sunken boat in which more than 700 people are thought to have drowned last month off Libya. Many bodies are still trapped inside.

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